On the podcast Jack and I frequently discuss our own ranges and our opponent's ranges. Ranges logically narrow as we get further into a hand, but having good preflop ranges and understanding the approximate ranges of the players we're up against is essential to analyzing the later streets. An ideal preflop range will take into account many factors: stack sizes, position, which type of players have acted or yet to act, how many players have acted thus far, etc. At a given moment those factors could radically change what we do with AQo in the Cutoff for example. There are scenarios where after a raise and a 3-bet in early position from your average recreational players, that hand is an easy fold. Conversely, if after a rather loose opener in early position makes a small raise and there are two calls, AQo is almost always correct to 3-bet.
There is serious amount of complexity involved in coming up with correct ranges for all the different spots one will encounter preflop. While it may be easier to come up with an exact preflop range than navigating what to do post-flop, pre-flop poker is by no means 'easy'. Figuring out what to do in the moment in unusual spots one's never encountered, or just figuring out what to do with the hands on the margins in relatively standard spots is not a straightforward task. The two ways I typically work on improving my preflop ranges for my own game or with students is twofold. One is taking a real scenario or coming up with one spot and making an exact range for that action. For example, here is the beginning of the hand history discussed on Episode 3 of the podcast:
"Location: Horseshoe Casino, Cleveland
Time: Sunday Dec 13, 4:30 PM
Hero (600): Zach, younger male. Hero has been playing fairly tight aggressive thus far. Might look a bit over-aggressive to certain players but has rarely gotten to showdown and when he has, has been with strong value hands.
Villain 1 (300): Just sat down, first hand. In early 30s, reeks of marijuana.
Villain 2 (200): Just sat down, first hand. In early 30s, reeks of marijuana.
Villain 3 (300): Very loose, super passive preflop. Capable of semibluffing and making big hero calls postflop. Has gone up and down a lot this session.
Villain 4 (120): 70s male. Very straightforward player, has never raised pre yet. The only hand he showed aggression postflop was where he flatted pocket aces and flopped a set.
8-handed table V1 and V2 limp..."
Hero is next to act here- what hands should I raise? What hands (if any) should I over-limp? What should I fold? Should I try and be very exploitative and have multiple opening sizes? If I were to do this exercise for myself, I would also list all the other players at the table and their stack sizes, positions, and tendencies to make sure the range I come up with is most accurate.
The other type of preflop exercise is to come up with standard preflop ranges. We've established that in practice any standard range would be highly influenced by the specific factors relevant to that table, but having a baseline is important. In a similar vein to understanding what a game-theoretically optimal (GTO) range looks like in a given spot, we don't make standard exploitative preflop ranges to stick to them most of the time. We study what a GTO range looks like so when we deviate we can better understand exactly why and how we're exploiting a given player. And we study 'default' exploitative preflop ranges to know what to default to at a new live table where we have little to no reads.
Below are images of my opening and limping ranges UTG at a 9-handed 1/2 or 1/3 table filled with all loose-passive recreational players. Yellow means all combos of the hand, green means about half of the combos of that hand, and blue means not in the range. Disregard the one orange box.
UTG Opening Range